I didn’t know how much I wanted to breastfeed until the Doctor told me I might have to stop. Little Story was screaming when I tried to give her my breast and the Doctor suggested my breast milk might be the culprit.
“Let’s start with taking the dairy out of your diet and see if she gets any better. Come back in two weeks and then maybe we can try giving her some formula.”
I didn’t know until I left the office and the tears started flowing, how upsetting this concept made me. When did I become one of those moms?
Breastfeeding is a personal choice that every new mom must make. There is no right choice and no wrong choice, it's what is best for you. Before the baby was born, I decided I would try it. While I was offered many opinions from friends and family, they had very little influence over my decision. I wanted to try it. And since I knew it was going to be tough, I challenged myself to make it three months.
It wasn’t until they put the baby in my arms that my desire to learn everything about breastfeeding was born. There was my daughter, all of about four hours old, and I had no idea how to breast feed. Torn between the want to give her comfort and the fear I would suffocate this tiny fragile creature, I listened to the nurse talk about the proper latch as she essentially thrusted the baby onto my nipple. Little Story took it right away, began chewing and suckling like a pro. But then the nurse left the room, Story fell off the nipple, and again, I had no idea what I was doing.
I kangarooed my little Story, her naked skin on mine and I let her take my nipple whenever she wanted it throughout the night. By morning, I was sore and already starting to blister. They sent in a lactation consultant to discuss the proper latch. I didn’t get it. I attended a breastfeeding class the morning after I gave birth. I, in my robe, still hooked up to a heart rate monitor, soaked up every word of the specialist.
It hurt. My entire body ached that first week and I was tired, but I wasn’t going to stop breastfeeding. Little Story was a powerful sucker, she blistered her lips and gulped at the breast. The latch wasn’t always perfect, but she rarely fell off and was clearly eating well. At a breastfeeding group that met Monday’s at the hospital, I listened to the specialist tell every woman with pain, “It shouldn’t hurt. You are probably doing it wrong.” I wanted to clock her. I was doing it right. It just hurts.
By week four, I was tired from lack of sleep and my nipples hurt if someone in the room sneezed. That’s when the free formula started arriving in the mail. Similac, Enfamil, Gerber, Fresh Start, they all tempted me with their powder, but that just made me even more determined. Then something happened. At week six, it stopped hurting. It got easier. It became a well grooved machine. I was over the hurdle. Or so I thought.
The pain subsided, baby was going four hours between feedings and slept eight hours at night. I began thinking I could do this for another three months. Then one morning I woke up dry, baby screaming in hunger as she tried to bring something out of my breast. I took it personal. I had failed. My sister told me to throw my schedule out the window and let the baby feed whenever she wanted for two days. And it worked, the milk came back. I was over the hurdle. Or so I thought.
Baby decided to go on a nursing strike and stopped pooping. Again I wondered, Is it my milk? What’s wrong with me? Am I a bad mother? She would pull away when I put her on my breast and turn purple with high pitched squeals. It would take me an hour just to get her to take a few drops of milk and then as soon as it was down, it came back up in projectile vomit that stained our bed like a fifteen year old boy was sleeping in it. We took her to the doctor. Reflux. They started her on Zantac and the puking stopped. She settled back in at the breast. I was over the hurdle.
Perhaps there is someone out there asking why I continue to breastfeed in the face of so many hurdles. And the answer is I don’t know.
I can’t explain it. It’s a pain in the ass being tied to her feeding schedule. It can be embarrassing whipping my breasts out in public. I never know how much she has eaten and if it will be enough to get her through the night. My breasts leak when I’m having a perfectly adult conversation with a friend in the park. I wear nursing bras and the types of clothes that cover these up and pull down in front for easy access. It’s not cute. It seems like I would be thrilled that the Doctor is suggesting I switch the baby over to formula, but I’m not.
I can’t stand the thought of ending these special times I have with baby girl. I secretly love that someone needs me. My baby girl follows me with her eyes through a crowded room and calms from a cry the minute I take her in my arms. Nowadays, when she eats, she looks me in the eye and smiles while she suckles. She cups my breast with one hand and squeezes my thumb with the other. She pushes in close to me and we have this private moment. Just her, and me. And in that space, I can protect her from the rest of the world. I can’t explain it. I don’t really understand it. I didn’t even realize how much I enjoyed it. Until I thought I would have to stop.
For now, I’m cutting out the dairy and determined not to stop. I bought a few good books to get me over the next hurdle and I’m blessed to have sisters that call me every day to cheer me on. As my new mom friends navigate the world of breastfeeding, I offer my support. As well as a few tips on gear that makes it easier, post to follow.